A Philosopher's Blog

God, a Yacht and Bitches

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on November 18, 2011
Aliosha VII Yacht

Image via Wikipedia

Stephen Colbert recently raised an important theological and philosophical question, namely,”Could God create a yacht so big that he could not fill it with bitches?” This sort of question, obviously enough, parallels some of the classic questions about the nature of God’s omnipotence, such as “can God create a rock that He cannot lift?”

The specific question of whether or not God can create such a yacht would seem to involve considering the specifics of the scenario, such as the size limits of yachts (would a ship of a certain size be too big to be classified as a yacht?) and bitches as well as what would count as being full of bitches (does this mean that the bitches are comfortably occupying the vessel or stacked and stuffed in all the spaces?). However, these complications can be set aside (along with the offensive term “bitches”) in favor of a more general sort of question: can God create a container that He cannot fill?

On the face of it, this would seem to create what appears to be a paradox. If God is omnipotent, then it would seem to follow that He could create a container (such as a yacht) of any size-even one that would be so big that He could not fill it (even given an infinite supply of created bitches). However, His omnipotence would also seem to entail that He could fill any container, no matter how big. After all, He could just create enough things to fill the container.

One potential way out of this problem is to play games with the notion of infinity. Presumably the largest container that God could create would be infinite in size. Presumably the largest number and volume of things (such as bitches) that God could create would also be infinite. Leibniz, in his Theodicy,  writes “and infinity, that is to say, the accumulation of an infinite number of substances, is, properly speaking, not a whole any more than the infinite number itself, whereof one cannot say whether it is even or uneven.” Stealing from Leibniz, perhaps it could be said that when talking about an infinite yacht and an infinite number of bitches it would not be possible to say whether it is full or not. Of course, this seems vaguely (or not so vaguely) unsatisfying.

Perhaps a better approach would be to look at the matter a bit differently. The problem arises from taking the ability to create something so big that He cannot fill it as a positive ability of God. As such, if God did not have that ability, then He would be lacking. But, of course, if he could not fill the object, then he would also be lacking.

However, the idea of an ability to create an object so big that He cannot fill it seems to involve an absurdity. After all, if God could create a hollow object of X size and Y interior volume, then it would seem that He could simply create an object marginally smaller than X with a volume of Y. Thus, the question is actually asking “could God create an object and not be able to create a smaller object (or objects) that would fill the larger object” and the answer would seem to be “no.” After all, objects have volumes and sizes, but so big that it cannot be filled does not seem to be a legitimate property that God could just give to an object. Rather, this property is a relational property between the object and all other things that exist or could exist. Thus, the supposition that God can create objects entails that He can fill any object He creates.

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9 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on November 18, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I would place this paradox within the purview of Schrodingers Cat, the wave function collapse and quantum supposition: A particle can exist in all possible states until measured. Then the probability wave collapses and the “truth” is revealed. For instance, consider the miracle of Jesus in which he feeds 5000 people from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Depending on what the probability wave decided, the yacht could appear full or not. Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance” and it scares the daylights out of scientists because it appears almost as magic.

    In any case, I’m perfectly willing to accept the universe has paradoxes. Quantum mechanics presents us with many, but we know the mathematical formulas in Quantum mechanics are correct because we use them in several pieces of high technology.

    Additionally, your example above gets into infinity which math doesn’t deal with well. So, either there is no such thing as infinity, or math itself proves we don’t know much about math. If we consider the universe to be infinite, then we must think of the paradox that creates, because it is filled to infinity. If God created the universe and it is infinite, that in and of itself is a paradox, which could leave us to believe that all possibilities may exist at once.

    • anon said, on November 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      “For instance, consider the miracle of Jesus in which he feeds 5000 people from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish”
      Proof or it didn’t happen

      “Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance” and it scares the daylights out of scientists because it appears almost as magic. ”
      It “scares” scientists? really? The only thing it would prove is that some of our current ideas about how some things work are incorrect in some way. Why would that “scare” scientests.

      “Quantum mechanics presents us with many, but we know the mathematical formulas in Quantum mechanics are correct because we use them in several pieces of high technology”
      There is a VAST difference between close enough and CORRECT even if you can use close enough to make something work.

      “If we consider the universe to be infinite, then we must think of the paradox that creates, because it is filled to infinity.”
      Who says it is filled to infinity? If I create a box (no matter the dimensions) and I evacuate all of the atoms from the inside of it that are not the box itself is the box filled or is it empty? Can emptiness fill something?

      • magus71 said, on November 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

        “Proof or it didn’t happen”

        I wouldn’t expect you to believe it happened. I choose to believe it did. Now please provide me with some proof that black holes exist–beyond the words of someone else that says so.

        “It “scares” scientists? really?”

        Absolutely. So much so that Einstein refused to believe it. Remember his, “God does not play dice with the universe”, statement? He was referring to quantum mechanics. Mike believes Quantum mechanics will be proven wrong in about a decade. Maybe. I do hope that you are not one of those people who think scientists are above the failings of human beings in every other endeavor. Greed, lust for fame the inability to accept that a theory or hypothesis is wrong–scientists are prone to them all. To think that all scientists just want the truth is absurd. Many just want to be right.

        “There is a VAST difference between close enough and CORRECT even if you can use close enough to make something work.”

        Not when it comes to dealing with quanta and photons, which need to be measured as precisely as is humanly possible. This is what is needed for fiber optics and quantum electronics and lasers. Quantum mechanics work or those things wouldn’t.

        “Who says it is filled to infinity?”

        I didn’t say it was filled to infinity. We don’t know one way or the other. Even if the expansion of matter in the universe has measurable outer edges, there is still something beyond that matter. A vacuum is still something. It still is ruled, presumably, by Einsteinian laws of time and space. I would think that “nothing” would be something to which the laws we fall under no longer apply. But then, even that would be something.

        Alright, back to my Firday night Heineken. oh how I wish the can’s contents were infinite….

  2. WTP said, on November 18, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Yes, infinity is the answer. As is known ∞ – 1 = ∞. ∞ + 1 = ∞. The limit as x->∞ for ∞ + x = ∞.

  3. WTP said, on November 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    There’s that smell again. Seriously, you guys don’t smell that?

    • magus71 said, on November 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      I think it’s biomass. Own up, biomass. Did you cut the cheese?

      TJ–come back and lend a voice of reason.

      • T. J. Babson said, on November 20, 2011 at 1:17 am

        I am in a funk because Mike is down to 3 posts a week.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm

          When my economy improves, I’ll be able to post more. However, I have been added to another committee (technology) and I have been assigned as the coordinator of the year long program review. My salary probably won’t be cut again, but I most likely will not have summer employment. So, the future looks like what most Americans who are still employed (and not rich) face: more work for ever decreasing actual pay (thanks to the cost of living increases, etc.).

  4. ajmacdonaldjr said, on November 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    “Could God create a yacht so big that he could not fill it with bitches?”

    This is intellectual play, similar to the “If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?” Both question contain their own answers: The answer to the first question being “No” and the answer to the second being “Yes”.

    In the first question, it is assumed that God can create whatever he wishes to create, in this case: a yacht; therefore the question already assumes he can fill it with as many “bitches” as are necessary to fill it.

    The second question also contains it’s own answer: we already know trees make sound when they fall; therefore the question answers itself: yes, trees make a sound when they fall in the forest. Because of our experience in the world we already know a tree makes a sound when it falls. Whether or not someone is there at the time it falls is irrelevant.

    Like Aristotle’s question: “If we could not perceive time would time still exist?” the answer is contained within the question itself: we already perceive time; therefore we know time would exist whether we can perceive it or not.

    As I said, these are intellectual-play questions that are of absolutely no practical value whatsoever; like: “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

    The world is and always has been an objective/subjective unity and this unity cannot truly be separated, no matter how many silly questions we use in our (Greek) attempts to first label and then separate “the objective” and “the subjective”: both of what we call “objective” and “subjective” work-together, or synergize, as one “thing” at all times and in all places, and cannot truly be separated.

    Once again, while the world burns, we fiddle with our intellectual-play….

    See: http://www.scribd.com/doc/18013481/Phenomenology-Theology-and-The-World-Perceived


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